Forty Ways to Sunday

Easter, 2010
Acts 10/Col.3

In the Name of God: Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. Amen.

I have never met a simple soul. I have yet to find any person whom I could “read like a book.”

When people come to see me to discuss spiritual issues, I’ll often meet someone who seems to fit a stereotype. The person will arrive at my office and I’ll see someone who appears to be an up-and-coming lawyer, or a hard-driving businessman, or a young actor.

But as the people tell me about themselves, I find that they don’t fit the categories I applied to them when we first met. As I get to know these folks, I find out that they have eccentric relatives, or they are involved in complicated relationships. Or I discover how unglamorous their jobs are.
There’s something in every individual soul that makes it different. Life is complicated; living people are complicated.

And so Christianity, too, is also complicated. Our religion has, after all, been formed by human beings–and it has been lived by human beings for thousands of years. No wonder it is just as complex as we are.

Yet in the midst of this diversity of belief are a few beliefs that all Christians hold. One of these foundational doctrines is that when Jesus Christ rose from the dead, he offered his new resurrection life to everyone. As St. Paul says in today’s Second Lesson, “When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.”

Every person is different. There are far more than “40 ways to Sunday”—far more than 40 ways to Easter Sunday.

But whatever form of faith you adopt, as long as that faith is genuine and rooted in the fundamental teachings of Christianity, you can count on your religion to bring you new life. Whatever your personal story, whatever your problems, whatever is going on in your unique soul—if you follow the way of Jesus Christ, you will find that opportunities for growth and change arise which you never thought were possible. Christ brings us our own chances for resurrection.

Here’s an example from my own experience; in my case, “new life” demanded from me a painful recognition of the complexities of my own soul.

I have been a Christian since I was an adolescent. Yet I find that even after many years of what “self-examination,” I’m still learning new things about myself.

And just in the past couple of weeks I learned how judgmental I can be.

Before this revelation came to me, I had been aware that I could be very critical of other people. Members of my staff have found me difficult to work for. Even my best friends would never describe me as “warm and fuzzy!”

But what I realized recently was how I had become so accustomed to this aspect of my personality that I excused myself. When I judged someone harshly, I let myself off by telling myself, “Well, that’s how I am. People will just have to deal with me.” And as this practice became a habit, I didn’t notice how harmful my remarks could be.

I’m sure that my behavior was obvious to many of my friends and acquaintances, but it wasn’t obvious to me! I had known that I had a tendency to pay too much attention to the faults of others. But I had failed to see how useful analysis could deteriorate into unfair judgment. In any event, I came to realize that my behavior needed changing.

Learning this uncomfortable lesson reminded me that the same complications that make other human beings difficult to understand can also make us mysterious to ourselves!

Yet when we use this spiritual technique of “self-examination,” when we look at our “thoughts, words, and deeds,” we can discern God’s will for our lives.

This Christian practice doesn’t force us into some oppressive way of acting. In fact, it does the opposite: we are set free. As we become more aware of our imperfections, we also become more aware of our strengths.

We understand ourselves better; we’re less weighed down by negative habits of thinking. And when we learn about ourselves, we discover Christ’s spirit at work in us.

In the process of revelation, then, we receive new life. Whatever path we take to spiritual rebirth—however unusual our journey, however troubling the things we learn about ourselves, we find our way to Sunday. We find our way to Easter Sunday, and we come to share in the risen life of Jesus Christ.

And now unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit be ascribed as is most justly due all might, majesty, power, dominion, and praise, now and forever. Amen.

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